Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Industry 4.0: Executives on how ‘smart factories’ will impact Cambodia

Industry 4.0: Executives on how ‘smart factories’ will impact Cambodia

Industry 4.0 robotic machinery displayed at an exposition earlier this year.
Industry 4.0 robotic machinery displayed at an exposition earlier this year. Photo supplied

Industry 4.0: Executives on how ‘smart factories’ will impact Cambodia

The next industrial revolution will introduce “smart factories” in which computers and robotics communicating wirelessly will handle physical processes with very little input from human operators, leaving few job opportunities for unskilled workers, executives of German industrial giants said during a briefing in Phnom Penh on Friday.

The event, titled “Industry 4.0, the Next Level of Manufacturing”, focused on the future of the internet and advanced technologies in the manufacturing sector, including its impact on human labour.

Markus Lorenzini, president and CEO of Siemens Thailand, said the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was already in progress and would bring increased flexibility and efficiency to industry while increasing the demand for skilled labour.

“The digital transformation of industry is not an option. It’s already happening,” he asserted as videos of unmanned machines operating autonomously on a factory floor in present-day Germany played on a screen behind him.

He said while past industrial revolutions were built on cheap labour, a tendency that saw huge investments by developed economies into low-income countries such as Cambodia, with the advent of Industry 4.0 and an internet-enabled robotic workforce “cheap labour . . . should become obsolete”.

Nikolay Kurnosov, general manager of Bosch Rexroth Vietnam, stressed that human labour would still be necessary even as factories shift to remotely operated robotics, but there would be no demand for an unskilled workforce.

“People are key players in the new industrial revolution,” he said. “We don’t need simple jobs anymore. We need skilled workers.”

He said Bosch expects there will be more manufacturing jobs in the future than there are today, but the positions will require technical skills rather than nimble hands.

Economists predict the coming industrial revolution will prove particularly challenging for Cambodia, which has positioned itself as a low-cost manufacturing destination.

Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to Cambodia’s Supreme National Economic Council, said Cambodia will struggle to find its footing as industry becomes increasingly reliant on computers and robotics.

“Machine-powered manufacturing will have a severe impact on socioeconomic life . . . [and] of course the impact will be more severe on poorer countries as they have only limited means and resources to respond,” he said.

He warned that Industry 4.0 could disrupt the traditional labour market in these countries and he was “afraid the rich-poor gap in the world will be widened”.

David Van, executive director of Deewee Management Consultants, said while Cambodia’s youthful population remained a potentially positive economic force, the current lack of vocational training would need to be addressed in order to meet industry’s growing demand for skilled labour.

“Vocational training has been in serious deficit here, despite some donors’ massive grants and technical assistance in this domain,” he said.

“The challenge is training our massive young workforce, which remains our trump card, since over 50 percent of [Cambodia’s] population is below 30 years old.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • ‘No chance Cambodia booted out of ASEAN’

    A group of former and current Cambodian diplomats on Tuesday fired back at retired Singaporean diplomat Bihalari Kausikan after he proposed that ASEAN dismiss Cambodia and Laos from the bloc. In an open letter, the Cambodian diplomats said Kausikan’s remarks were made from a

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Woman seeks answers after arrest of American partner

    Filipina Lalaine de Guzman, 48, is demanding answers for the detention of her American partner by Cambodian immigration officers after he was arrested at their home almost 90 days ago. She said without an arrest warrant or proffering any criminal charges, Stephen Sidney Greatsinger, 56, is being detained

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital